Mr Brown's 'development presidency'

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The Independent Online

Planned months in advance, the annual summits of the Group of Eight most prosperous nations have a record of being taken over nonetheless by short-term concerns. This year's meeting, which takes place next week in the US state of Georgia, will be an opportunity for last-minute diplomacy on Iraq, to the likely exclusion of longer-term, less eye-catching, themes.

Planned months in advance, the annual summits of the Group of Eight most prosperous nations have a record of being taken over nonetheless by short-term concerns. This year's meeting, which takes place next week in the US state of Georgia, will be an opportunity for last-minute diplomacy on Iraq, to the likely exclusion of longer-term, less eye-catching, themes.

So it is characteristically prudent of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to set out his priorities in advance - as he does in this paper today - not just for this year's G8 summit, but for next year, when Britain will hold the presidency. Britain, France and Canada have all used their presidency of the rich countries' club as a platform for advocating a fairer deal for the poor. Where Britain has the chance to be different is in the scale and specifics of its ambitions, its realism and in its effort to join the dots.

Mr Brown is also right to point out how poorly the rich world has fulfilled the pledges it has made so far. The world trade talks have got nowhere and not one of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa is anywhere near being attained. Either there must be a major effort, backed with cash, to make up for lost time, or we should revise the objectives and vow to be more honest in future about what can realistically be done. Anything else will breed more cynicism about the intentions of the rich.

To his credit, Mr Brown is proposing the former, and to make Britain's leadership of the G8 the "development presidency". The 20th anniversary of Live Aid next year and the recently launched Commission for Africa both offer opportunities to galvanise public support. But this will not be easy: the current crisis in Sudan has met a largely apathetic response. The vicious circle of repressive government, civil war and famine is an old and familiar story.

Mr Brown writes of a project on the lines of Marshall Plan for Africa, when the US transferred 2 per cent of its national income to make possible the post-war reconstruction of Europe. Another purpose of the Marshall Plan was to revive a world trade system at risk of collapse. The inexorable advance of globalisation dictates a similar agenda today.

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